Santoku vs Chef Knife: Kitchen Knife Comparison

Wondering how these two knives compare and contrast? Let's talk Santoku vs Chef Knife:

When it comes to kitchen knives, you can have a full knife block of options (bread, paring, serrated, boning, butcher... the list goes on and on). But there are really two main general purpose knives home cooks and professional chefs choose between when prepping ingredients: the Santoku and chef knife.

How are a Santoku and chef knife different?

Although many chefs find Santoku and chef knives interchangeable due to their similarities, that's only true to a point (pun not intended). There are distinguishing design features that make both knives unique.

The main notable difference between a Santoku and chef knife is the cutting method used by both knives on a cutting board. When using a chef knife with its curved blade, you will use a fluid back and forth rocking motion to slice and chop (with some part of the knife always being in contact with the cutting board). The Santoku knife, however, uses more of an up-down chopping method because of its flat blade (with no part of the knife in contact with the cutting board between cuts).

Now let's dive a little deeper into each knife:


The Japanese-style Santoku knife, whose name means "Three Virtues" for its main uses of slicing, dicing, and chopping, is typically made from stainless steel or carbon steel. The Santoku knife was created to be an alternative to the classic Japanese version of a vegetable cleaver, but it ended up being much more multi-purpose than that.

made in santoku knife

Made In Santoku Knife

The Santoku is designed with a light, thin, flat blade that typically has a blade length between 5 and 7 inches and a blade angle between 12 and 15 degrees per bevel. With a focus on the blade, its flatness means it excels at quick chops and precision cuts. Because they don't require as wide of a grip due to their shorter blade length and cutting motion, those with smaller hands may prefer a Santoku.

Another difference from chef knives? "Scallops," which are indentations on the side of the blade so that food does not stick to the side of the blade as much while cutting.

Chef Knife

Also known as a chef’s knife or French knife, the chef knife, which originated in Thiers, France, is typically made from carbon steel and stainless steel.

made in chef knife

Made In Chef Knife

The blade of a chef's knife is typically around 8 inches, but you’ll occasionally see a 10 inch blade. These functional knives have a pointed tip, with a curved double bevel cutting edge with a 20 to 25 degree angle that allows the user to utilize the fluid rocking motion technique while cutting.

Because their cutting method is a little more fluid than that of the Santoku, chef knives are great at making quick, uniform slices. In addition, their very pointy tip is ideal for deboning, disjointing, and spatchcocking.

How are a Santoku and chef knife similar?

Home cooks will find that while the Santoku and chef knife may differ in shape and size, they’re utilized in very similar ways.  They’re both versatile, go-to kitchen knives that can accomplish a number of daily cutting tasks like cutting meat, fruit, and vegetables.

Santoku vs chef knife: Do I have to pick just one?

Nope! Santoku and chef knives are meant to complement each other rather than replace each other. It's great to have both so you can take advantage of the unique advantages each offers. For example, you may want to disjoint a raw chicken with your chef knife then immediately chop leeks with your Santoku.

However you choose to outfit your knife block, make sure your knives are fully forged and full tang. Knives that are fully forged and full tang are made from one solid rod of metal from the tip through the hilt. This means they will last much longer than stamped or welded knives because there are no pain points that will inevitable wear down over time. If you want knives that outperform and outlast, check out Made In's entire line of fully forged and full tang knives, which are now customizable!

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1 comment

  • Greg Yahn

    Can you post something on proper sharpening methods? I use both a pull through sharpener (from Cutco) and a steel. Though I thing I understand the why’s and how’s, I am not so sure. I would hate to ruin my new Santoku blade by sharpening it wrong. Also, how do you know when a blade is sharp enough?
    This would b every helpful.

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